Efforts for the Protection of the Interests of the Moldavian Csángó after 1989
The intelligentsia of the Carpathian basin discovered the communities of Moldavian Hungarians living outside the border at the end of the 18th century. During the 19th century, in parallel with the development of the Hungarian nation as a third estate concept, and its culture; this interest heightened, and a number of modest efforts were taken for the protection of the interests of the Moldavian Csángó. In 1861 a group of religious and secular intellectuals formed the St. Ladislaus Society whose main purpose was to tend to the religion, culture, and education of Hungarian com- munities detached from the country. In 1867, the society set up a Permanent Csángó Committee and dispatched special commissioners to Moldavia.1
From 1920 onwards, the Moldavian Csángó and the Hungarians of Transylvania lived in a single country – Greater Romania. Since World War I brought about grim battles between the Romanian and the Austro-Hungarian troops in the region inhabited by the Csángó-Hungarians, the central Romanian authorities and the local ad- ministration pursued a deliberate and intolerant policy of assimilation between the two world wars. Such intolerance towards the Moldavian-Hungarian communities and the deprivation of their civil rights further increased when Northern Transylvania was attached to Hungary in 1940. Between the two world wars ethnographers were the primary source of information for the general public as to the fate of the Moldavian Csángó.
The communist authorities of Romania temporarily tolerated the Hungarian Folk Alliance to build and operate a network of Hungarian schools in Moldavia for a couple of years after World War II. During this period Hungarian linguists and ethnographers from Kolozsvár (Cluj) conducted widespread studies of the dialects, folklore and ethnography of the Moldavian-Hungarian communities. Following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, however, the openly nationalist Romanian communist leadership curbed all efforts for the protection of interests: mother-tongue instruction classes were quickly dissolved and the expulsion of the Hungarian language from religious and ecclesiastical life was openly supported.
During the last decade of Ceauşescu's dictatorship, the mere word `Csángó' counted as a taboo in Hungarian newspapers and other publications, while the ultra-nationalist and totalitarian authorities did all they could to sever any connections between Moldavian and Transylvanian Hungarians. Ethnographers visiting Csángó villages were intimidated and plagued with police raids, as were the residents who provided them with lodgings.
The unresolved educational and cultural problems and the protection of the inter- ests of the Moldavian-Hungarian communities once again came to the surface in the years following the 1989 political transformation in Romania. The resolution of these problems has since been looked upon as the benchmark of the democratization and modernization of political life. Over the course of the past fourteen years the Csángó problem has outgrown the confines of the dialogues of the Hungarian and Romanian elites, as European institutions for the protection of minorities have also begun to take notice of this exceptional Moldavian ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious community.
As the democratization of political and social life in Romania after 1990 developed rather slowly, the protection of the interests of the Moldavian Hungarian-Csángó community also had to face many obstacles and much opposition. Hostility and intolerance towards minorities, elevated to the level of state policy and party line during the reign of Nicolae Ceauşescu (1965-1989), brought about distortions of public consciousness on such massive scale as to hinder and corrupt the effective protection of Romanian national and ethnic minorities even after 1989.
Even though the rapid self-organization of domestic national minorities came as a relative surprise to the majority population, the most important ethnic institutions came to life among the Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia too, urging the introduction of Hungarian language school-education and church liturgy, and the natural development and practice of Hungarian cultural heritage with increasing resolution.
Given that a Hungarian-speaking intelligentsia of their own could not evolve in the catholic villages of Moldavia, it was primarily those who settled in Transylvania that promoted the protection of the Moldavian Csángó-Hungarian culture and dialect, arguing for the necessity and pan-European significance of its preservation. On 25th March 1990 the members of the Hungarian Csángó with expressive Hungarian consciousness decided to establish their own independent self-interest organization. The committee selected by the initiators of the organization prepared the organization's by-laws and program and, on 20th October 1990, the delegates founded the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia (Asociatia Maghiarilor Ceangai din Moldavia) in the Kovászna (Covasna) County Library in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe). The Alliance was officially registered with the Covasna County Court in 1991. The basic aim of the Alliance is to protect and represent the interests of the Moldavian Csángó-Hun- garians and to preserve and hand down the traditional, Hungarian-language based culture. In 1995 the Alliance serving the protection of the interests of the members of the Csángó community with Hungarian consciousness became an associate member of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania. In 1997 the organization trans- ferred its seat to Gyimesbükk (Făget) and, soon afterwards, moved to the city of Bákó (Bacau) where maintains an information bureau to date.
Since the early 1990s, the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia has steadfastly maintained the demand that, in accordance with the effective Act on Public Education in Romania, those children, whose parents so request in writing, be allowed to receive Hungarian language, literature and culture education at school in the Moldavian Csángó villages. Hungarian-language church service has also been re- quested for those citizens who expressly accept their Hungarian identity. The Alliance organizes several events to further personal contact and cultural connections between the Hungarians living in the Carpathian Basin and Moldavia.
On commission by the Romanian Hungarian Democratic Alliance's committee responsible for ethnic remnants, the editorial board of the daily newspaper, Háromszék, in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe) began to publish the Romanian and Hungarian language periodical Csángó Gazette (Gazeta Ceangailor din Moldavia) in March 1990, initially as a monthly. Between 1992 and 1998, the Alliance published this periodical under the title ,,Moldavian Hungarians" at irregular intervals. Under duress, the periodical was forced to stop publication for a brief period of time from 1998, then resumed operation in January 2000 as a regular monthly, published by Hargita Publishers, founded by the Székelyföld Foundation in Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc).
In the years following Romania's change of political regimes in 1989, several civil initiatives attended to the task of the native language instruction of children living in Moldavian Csángó villages. The Pál Péter Domokos Foundation was officially registered in Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc) on 4th December 1992. Its president, teacher Erzsébet Borbáth has been organizing the Hungarian language instruction and boarding of Csángó children and distribution of scholarships among them in Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc) and various Transylvanian cities for over a decade. The Pál Péter Domokos Student Alliance (Budapest) is the institution responsible for the protection of the interests of high school and university students studying here. With the help of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service, a Csángó Information Office and library were opened in 2002. Thanks to the support extended by the Hungarian Ministry of Education, ten young Csángó people can start their studies in various Hungarian universities and colleges each year.
In the ten years following the change of regime, beside Hungarian NGO's, the officials of the Hungarian government also began take part in resolving the problems and promoting the interests of the Hungarian-speaking population in Moldavia. For ex- ample, in the city of Jászberény, situated between the Danube and Tisza rivers, a Csángó folklore festival and camp has been organized annually since 1990, and has gradually become a meeting point for threatened minorities in Europe in recent years. Since 1997 Budapest has hosted a Csángó ball and exhibition during the carnival period each year. The Demeter Lakatos Society has been active in Hungary since 1990, coordinating basic studies on Csángó history, folk culture and cultural life in a manner similar to that of the St. Ladislaus Society, established in the 19th century. The Society undertakes the representation of the universal values of the Csángó cultural heritage through conferences, publications and exhibitions. The Eger-based János Ince Petrás Cultural Society organizes summer camps in Hungary for Moldavian Csángó schoolchildren. On November 8th 2003, the anniversary of the 190th birthday of János Incze Petrás, the famous Moldavian priest and folk poetry collector, a plaque designed by sculptor and photographer Gergely Csoma was installed at the Roman Catholic College of Theology in Eger.
András Duma, leader of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia in the village of Klézse (Cleja), who faithfully championed the cause of language instruction in the local school during the decade following the 1989 political transformation in Romania, launched the periodical, ,,About Us", (Mi magunkról / Noi despre Noi) in 1997, which became the official publication of the Szeret-Klézse Foundation 1999. Among the primary goals of the Klézse (Cleja) institution is to cultivate the Hungarian identity of children in the village, as well as to hand down Hungarian culture to the coming generations. In 1999 the foundation set out to acquire, extend and outfit a piece of property to host native language and cultural programs for schoolchildren and adults, similarly to the so-called ,,telehouses" operating in the Carpathian Basin.
In 1996 Csángó young people launched the Via Spei Csángó Youth Organization, officially registered in 1999. The organization's primary goal in Moldavia (e.g. in the villages of Klézse/Cleja, Forrófalva/Faraoani, Pusztina/Pustiana, Újfalu/Satu Nou, etc.) is to organize native language instruction and to strengthen the Hungarian identity among Csángó youth. Numerous camps, seminars and professional field trips were organized in Moldavia and Transylvania, where young people could acquaint themselves with the European values of the Csángó and Hungarian cultures. The St. Stephen Society, launched by Tinka Nyisztor has been operative in Pusztina (Pustiana) for three years, primarily working for the introduction of the Hungarian church liturgy; but also attaching significant importance to the organization of cultural life generally on the basis of native folklore and culture.
Those who graduated from universities and colleges in Hungary or Transylvania after the 1989 political transformation have gradually begun to return to Moldavian Csángó villages. Independently from the ruling majority, these young people have initiated and organized programs directed at the survival and dissemination of local traditions. For example, camps and festivals were organized in Külsőrekecsin (Fundu Răcăciuni) and Somoska (Somusca) for young people from Romania, Hungary and other foreign countries wishing to experience the archaic treasures of Csángó folklore on site, such as classical folk ballads, lyrical songs, folk music and dance, as well as textile design. In Pusztina (Pustiana), village celebrations are organized, where locals may learn not only about their own heritage but also about the European cultural treasures of Hungarian communities living in the Carpathian Basin.
November 2003 witnessed another important turn of events in the lives of the Moldavian Csángó-Hungarians when modest steps were taken to develop the political representation of their interests. Although the Romanian Hungarian Democratic Alliance already had members in 42 Moldavian settlements, its independent local organizations first emerged in Szucsáva (Suceava), followed by Klézse (Cleja), Pusztina (Pustiana), Külsőrekecsin (Fundu Răcăciuni) and Lujzikalagor (Luizi-Călugăra). Following the general assembly of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia in Bákó (Bacau) on 8th November 2003, the majority of the participants decided to form the Romanian Hungarian Democratic Alliance's local organization in Bákó (Bacau) County. At the inaugural meeting, high-ranking representatives of the RMDSZ (Romanian Hungarian Democratic Alliance) were also present, for example vice-presidents Gyula Szép, responsible for cultural affairs, and Bálint Porcshalmi, responsible for youth affairs. The 24 th regional organization of RMDSZ decided to achieve that the Moldavian Csángó-Hungarians be represented in the Romanian administration in proportion to their size after the 2004 local self-government elections.
After the 1989 events in Romania, many Csángó residents living in Moldavia felt that the process of establishing local democratic institutions has once again opened up the opportunity to start native language instruction in schools (similarly to the practice between 1945 and 1958). In many Csángó villages – such as Szabófalva (Săbăoani), Lészped (Lespezi), Pusztina (Pustiana), Klézsa (Cleja) and Gyoszén (Giosen) – private individuals with stronger Hungarian identity (e.g. teachers, workers, farmers, etc.) offered their own homes to organize mother-tongue education for children on the weekends. The authorities, however, quickly put an end to these humble extracurricular endeavors. In one instance, Mihály Perka, history teacher from Szabófalva (Săbăoani), organized a language group that was deemed illegal and anti-constitutional. Further classes were prohibited and participants were constantly harassed and intimidated. In the village of Lészped (Lespezi) near Bákó (Bacau), workers and farmers organized some Hungarian language instruction for the local children. Their activities were constantly harassed by the local and county police that quickly made it impossible for them to carry on with their activities. For example, the local press started slandering them, police summons were issued and verbal abuse was used to intimidate the organizers and parents to the point where further initiatives quietly came to an end.
The political elite striving for the quick and violent assimilation of the Csángó populace was unwilling, even after 1989, to accept the existence of an ethno-cultural and denominational minority living in Moldavia, whose basic rights include the institutional and communal usage of their mother tongue in church and school life.
Since the powers-that-be used a wide variety of tools to stomp grassroot initiatives, on 25th April 1995 the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia organized a larger conference in Klézse (Cleja) to begin the organization of the institutional mothertongue education and cultural life. The organizers invited the acting president of RMDSZ and the vice-president responsible for cultural and religious affairs. Extremist political groups in Bákó (Bacau) County and the leaders of the local Roman Catholic Church decided to use all means to prevent the conference of Hungarian delegates. For example, the priests began to circulate rumors that activists of RMDSZ intend to convert the Csángó people to Protestantism. To prevent Hungarian language instruction, the principal of the local school even mobilized a group of children. The misguided and intoxicated mob of people stopped the cars of the arriving delegates and guests at the village entrance, used physical and verbal abuse against them, destroyed the Hungarian Alliance's video equipment and burnt the Hungarian language textbooks they found in the cars.
After the 1996 elections in Romania, the former democratic opposition and the RMDSZ formed a coalition government. Shortly afterwards, Andrei Marga, rector of the Babes-Bolyai University in Kolozsvár (Cluj), became the head of the ministry of education. In this new political situation, the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia attempted to introduce the instruction of Hungarian language and culture as a non-compulsory subject in the public school system in Csángó villages upon request by the parents – something that is clearly allowed and provided for by government order no. 3113/2000, issued by the Romanian Ministry of Education. According to the government order, formulated by József Kötő, the ministry's state secretary, effective as 31st January 2000, not only the parents, but the individual federations of the minorities may request the introduction of non-compulsory mother-tongue education in public schools.
In September of 2000, seven parents in Lészped (Lespezi), twenty-eight parents in Pusztina (Pustiana) and twenty-five parents in Klézse (Cleja) officially asked for the introduction of a Hungarian language program in their children's schools. As the school principal of Pusztina (Pustiana) refused to accept their joint petition, the parents repeated their request individually. The school commissioner of Bákó (Bacau) County deemed the above mentioned government order to be mistaken, as its application would open the path to the education of the Hungarian language in Moldavia, therefore he declared that he would never support or respect such an order.
On 14th September an atmosphere close to civil war exploded in Klézse (Cleja) when a joint committee of experts consisting of the Hungarian alderman of the Ministry of Education (Attila Sántha), the assistant school commissioner of Bákó (Bacau) County and representatives of the county prefecture and the Ministry for the Protection of Minorities began investigations among the individuals requesting Hungarian language education. While the parents all reinforced their previous requests, the local mayor, the Roman Catholic parish priest and leaders of political extremist groups intoxicated and riled up a gang of 20-25 local men to verbally and physically intimidate the parents, thus preventing the introduction of Hungarian language instruction in the school system. Despite this violent atmosphere, out of the thirty petitioners in Klézse (Cleja), thirteen parents reinforced their appeal before the committee. In Pusztina (Pustiana), nine out of the original seventeen stepped before the committee and in Lészped (Lespezi) only one out of nine petitioners upheld his request. Finally, the joint committee concluded that there is indeed a realistic demand for Hungarian education in Moldavia; the minutes were signed by the representative of the prefecture and the school commission too.
In connection with these events, Gabriel Andreescu, the Romanian president of the Helsinki Committee, announced at a press conference held on 22nd September 2000 that a comprehensive report would be prepared about the situation of the Csángó people, on the basis of which the Council of Europe will launch on-site investigations. The representative of the Human Rights Committee felt that this event was important also because it gave the Romanian Ministry of Education and the Minority Affairs Office a chance to inform the public about the situation in Moldavia.
On 24th September 2000, Andrei Marga, Romanian minister of education announced that all necessary conditions were in place for the ministry to permit the instruction of the Hungarian language in Bákó (Bacau) County. The Romanian media quickly staged a vehement counterattack and declared that the Minister had irresponsibly succumbed to Hungarian propaganda when issued government order no. 3113, permitting all minorities in Romania to conduct instruction in their native tongue. Bákó (Bacau) County's prefecture warned the Romanian prime minister in writing that the introduction of Hungarian language instruction in schools would cause unnecessary ethnic conflicts in the region. The next day, the head of the Romanian Ministry of Education declared that the parents' petition had to be examined by the county school commission as well.
Meanwhile, the Bákó (Bacau) County school commission reexamined the petitions submitted by the parents in Klézse (Cleja) requesting that their children be allowed to
attend Hungarian language classes in their village. The director of the County Hall tried to convince parents in Klézse (Cleja) and Pusztina (Pustiana) to permanently withdraw their previous petitions. Finally, as a result of more effective scare tactics, a significant number of intimidated parents withdrew their signature. Soon the officials had 598 individuals in Klézse (Cleja) sign a statement to the effect that the request for the introduction of Hungarian instruction in local schools is unfounded since the Csángó people unanimously consider themselves Romanian. The document was also forwarded to Emil Constantinescu, and the prime minister was asked to take measures to ensure that only the official language would be used in schools and churches; namely, Romanian would be the language of instruction and that of church ceremony. Zsolt Szilágyi, a representative of RMDSZ in the Romanian Parliament directed an interpellation towards the Romanian Prime Minister, in which he demanded an explanation, conformant to general European standards as well as the effective laws of the land, for the events in the Moldavian villages. The Prime Minister declined to answer the MP, instead he passed on the problem to the Ministry of Education and Public Administration for investigation.
Because of the failure, the leaders of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia decided at a conference on education held in Gyimesfelsőlok (Lunca de Sus) that native language instruction would be started outside of public schools, conducted in private homes and community halls in the afternoons and on the weekends. In the autumn of 2000, under the direction of Attila Hegyeli, a recent graduate of Hungarian and Ethnography the first classes began for the local children at the Szeret-Klézse Foundation Center. Since the interest in the afternoon classes consisting of cultural, linguistic and information technology instruction was relatively large among the children, also their parents quickly began to participate in this alternative educational model. The administrative and professional management of the program organized by the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia was provided by the Association of Hungarian Educators in Romania, and enjoyed the financial support of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage in Budapest. This teaching format continued in Klézse (Cleja) in the fall of 2001 and simultaneously began in Somoska (Somusca), Pusztina (Pustiana), Trunk (Galbeni), Külsőrekecsin (Fundu Răcăciuni) and Gyoszén (Giosen).
On 14th November 2001, when the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe formulated its position regarding the Csángós, the authorities of Bákó (Bacau) County employed harsh devices against Hungarian language instruction in villages. Taking part in the intimidation tactics were the county's Head School Commissioner, several school inspectors, the Mayor and Assistant Mayor of Klézse (Cleja), the local police chief and the township's various school principals. Those families in Klézse (Cleja) who opened their homes to education and who gave lodgings to Transylvanian teachers were all sent police summons and were threatened with raids and fines. The head School Commissioner threatened them with saying that if they found the local education to be inadequate for them, they should move to Hungary. The following day the commission appeared in Pusztina (Pustiana) where they inspected the home of Jenő Bilibók, where classes were often held. Although the young teacher was not at home at the time, the visitors confiscated several Hungarian books. Soon enough, the police visited and harassed the parents of the teachers living in Transylvania who took part in the Hungarian language instruction programs.
While the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a communication to the public stating that the Ministerial Committee of the Council of Europe had adopted the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1521 (2001) on the protection of the Csángó culture in Romania on 14th November in Strasbourg, the cabinet-head of the Bákó (Bacau) County prefect also made a visit to Klézse (Cleja) on 16th November. There he inspected the private premises where the extracurricular mother-tongue instruction had taken place, with special attention to the textbooks used by the Transylvanian teachers. While asking for operating licenses and health permits, several history books printed in Hungary were removed from the private homes.
Upon the written request of the Prefecture, the Bákó (Bacau) County Department of Health visited Klézse (Cleja) on 19th November 2001 to inspect the premises of the Hungarian afternoon classes. Here they concluded that neither the Hungarian community hall, nor the private homes meet the health requirements provided for by law and therefore must be temporarily shut down; no more instruction could take place there until further notice. It is interesting to note that in the meantime, not one single public school out of the 223 in Bákó (Bacau) County had a health permit, yet none were forced to close down. At the same time, severe fines were levied on places where Hungarian instruction was being conducted if those locations did not meet health and furnishing requirements. On 21st November the County's Romanian newspaper stated that the investigation requested by the school principals of Klézse (Cleja) had been completed. This gesture made it obvious that the required health permits were just a pretext for the authorities to stomp the afternoon and weekend native language classes for the Csángó children of Klézse (Cleja).
On November 29th, the leader of the Hungarian language instruction program and the vice-president of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia were summoned to the office of the Bákó (Bacau) County School Commissioner. There they presented to the authorities the 32 applications submitted by the parents to allow their children to have afternoon Hungarian language instruction in their public schools. Finally, the head commissioner, under whose leadership the investigation committee operated, came to the decision that the program leaders were only responsible for neglecting to obtain the proper permits.
Under written request from the Bákó (Bacau) County School Commissioner's Office, on 7th December the Klézse (Cleja) police once more summoned the Csángó children's Hungarian teachers as well as the individuals providing their lodgings to appear at the police station. During the examinations that were quite hostile in their atmosphere, the officials were primarily concerned with whether or not the organizers of the afternoon classes were residing legally in the settlement. Native language instruction and activities continued quietly even after the terror tactics exercised against them; finally the leaders of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia decided that they would obtain all the official permits necessary to legally continue their educational efforts. Meantime, the County's school commissioners in Bákó (Bacau) initiated legal proceedings against the Szeret-Klézse Foundation in order to halt illegal native language instruction and to put an end to the Foundation's activities. The Bákó (Bacau) County school commissioners initiated similar legal proceedings in Kovászna (Covasna) County against the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia, alleging that the representative institution had organized mother tongue education for Csángó children illegally.
The Romanian Social Democratic Party, the governing party since 2000, intends to integrate Romania into security and political structures of Western Europe as rapidly as possible. Spectacular results in the field of foreign policy, however, would require thorough and consistent compliance with the expectations of Western European institutions in the field of the protection of minorities. It was for this reason that, in 2002, the ruling party, together with the RMDSZ (the organization founded in order to protect the interests of Hungarians in Romania), agreed to set up a jointly appointed expert committee to look for a solution to assure native language instruction for the Moldavian Csángós.
On 1st March 2002, the leaders of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia held a consultation in their Bákó (Bacau) offices where it was decided that the petitions submitted by parents for facultative Hungarian instruction in public schools would henceforth be certified by a notary public.
In the first week of May 2002, a high-ranking group of RMDSZ delegates led by Béla Markó, President of the RMDSZ, visited the villages inhabited by the Csángós in order to take inventory of the problems of the Csángó-Hungarian communities and to find solutions. Many citizens of the neighboring Csángó villages conscious of their Hungarian identity came to the forum organized at the Szeret-Klézse Foundation's headquarters, a lot of them inquiring about the possibilities of boosting the economy of the region. On 2nd May, the large delegation conducted talks at the Bákó (Bacau), prefecture about the native language instruction of the Csángós. In addition, they wished to ensure the realization of the spirit and principles of the cooperation between the governing Social Democratic Party and RMDSZ. The negotiations were attended by the Bákó (Bacau) County Prefect, the head School Commissioner and his deputy, the general director of the Ministry of Education, and the vice-president of the governing party. The representatives of RMDSZ demanded that the county authorities severely punish the teachers who intimidated children wishing to study Hungarian, too. They requested that the authorities cease harassing Hungarian organizations and foundations. The negotiating parties established that in Klézse (Cleja) and Pusztina (Pustiana) a sufficient number of notarized parental signatures had been collected for the school commission request the Ministry of Education to approve the introduction of a non-compulsory Hungarian course in public schools. On 13th June the Ministry of Education approved the notarized applications of the parents in Pusztina (Pustiana) and Klézse (Cleja) and sent a memo to the office of the Bákó (Bacau) County school commissioner with instruction to take the necessary steps for the introduction of Hungarian native language classes in the autumn.
In June 2002, the Bákó (Bacau) court rejected the claim against the Szeret-Klézse Foundation submitted by the school commission of Bákó (Bacau) County. The school commission of the Moldavian county had previously accused the Csángó-Hungarian Foundation of illegally instructing the children of Klézse (Cleja) in Hungarian and demanded that the court revoke the Foundation's license of operation.
In September 2002, Attila Hegyeli, teacher of Hungarian and ethnography and Jenő Bilibók, history teacher, could start the native-tongue education of 17 children in Klézse (Cleja) and 24 children in Pusztina (Pustiana) in their local public schools. In both settlements the Hungarian classes had to be held for combined groups from all forms in the early between 7 and 8 o'clock, twice a week on a regular basis during the 2002-2003 school year.
Upon the recommendation of the Council of Europe, the School Commission of Bákó (Bacau) County accepted an out-of-court settlement with the Szeret-Klézse Foundation in November 2002. Following more than one year of continuous litigation, a couple of months later, in March 2003, the Brasov Court of Appeal rejected in the final, third instance the demand of the Bákó (Bacau) County School Commission to ban the activities of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia.
In spring 2003, Csángó-Hungarian parents from further communities submitted notarized applications for Hungarian education, informing the county and the local education authorities in advance about the significant number of requests to be submitted. Alarmed by the great number of applications, the local parish priest of Külsőrekecsin (Fundu Răcăciuni) delivered a sermon in which he called Hungarian language instruction a mortal sin. His intolerant speech was obviously pitted against the establishment of Hungarian language education as a facultative course in public schools.
Since the Bákó (Bacau) County School Commission had once again begun to play for time, Béla Markó, president of RMDSZ visited Bákó (Bacau) in the beginning of July 2003. He was accompanied by Gyula Szép, vice-president responsible for culture, Árpád Márton, Member of Parliament and Laszló Szepessy, head of the organization's presidential office in Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureş). The RMDSZ delegation and the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia were received at the office of the prefect in Bákó (Bacau) County by Viorel Hrebenciuc, Vice-President of Romania's ruling party in Bucharest, the County Prefect and the head School Commissioner. The half-hour conference produced a rapid and simple agreement to the effect that based on petitions presented to the school commission, in addition to the villages of Klézse (Cleja) and Pusztina (Pustiana), Frumósza (Frumoasa), Külsőrekecsin (Fundu Răcăciuni), Magyarfalu (Arini), Lészped (Lespezi) and Somoska (Somusca) would also have native language instruction as of September 2003.
EFFORTS TO ENSURE THE USE OF NATIVE LANGUAGE IN RELIGIOUS LIFE
Following the political changes in Romania in 1989, the Csángós living in Moldavia and conscious of their Hungarian identity began to increasingly demand native language church service. The requests submitted for the use of Hungarian liturgy remained unaccepted and unanswered, the petitioners were intimidated by various means and forced to retract their requests. In August 1991, a petition with 200 signatures requesting religious services in their churches in the Hungarian language was submitted. Grigore Duma, the Secondary Bishop at the time, stomped the initiative with force.
In 1998, the congregation of Pusztina (Pustiana) signed a new petition, in which they made it clear that although they are aware of the ambiguity of their identity and would by no means wish to be the object of political or ecclesiastical disputes, they would like to remind authorities that, on the basis of new European laws as well as existing cultural traditions, they should be allowed to take part in church service conducted in their mother tongue. They also reminded the clerical authorities that even on the eve of the 21st century, the only way they could celebrate mass in Hungarian was secretly in private homes. Furthermore, they stated that their request for mother tongue mass was not only legal but practicable as well, especially with respect to the fact that the Polish Catholics in Bucovina have always had Polish church service. The congregation concluded the letter by saying that they had no other alternative but to keep praying to God until his Holiness permits the holy mass to be held in Hungarian in their churches.
On 23rd February 1998, in Bákó (Bacau) Gabor Dumitru, assistant Roman Catholic Bishop of Jászvásár (Iasi), and Archdeacon Ştefan Erdes met with the representatives of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians intending to submit to the archdeacon a petition with 160 signatures from Pusztina (Pustiana) requesting Hungarian mass in their village. At the end of the discourse conducted with a rudeness not worthy of his religious position, the assistant bishop rejected the petition with the excuse that each individual must make their request separately and individually. In addition, he questioned the authenticity of the signatures and insisted that the liturgy be continued in Romanian in the churches under his jurisdiction. Two weeks later, two church counselors and the parish priest of Pusztina (Pustiana) visited the petitioners, as did the local priest, Eugen Diac, a few days later. As a result of these visits several people revoked their signature or denied having signed the request. Then, on 18th April 1998, a petition that was signed by 80 individuals in the presence of the representative of the church authorities was registered without a reference number. Soon the people of Pusztina (Pustiana) forwarded their plea to the papal legate's offices in Bucharest and the Society for the Protection of Human Rights of Romania (APADORCH).
In a letter dated 20th June 1998, István Gergely, a Roman Catholic priest serving in Csíksomlyó (Sumuleu-Ciuc) in Transylvania requested of Petru Gherghel, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Jászvásár (Iasi), that Hungarian language mass be allowed in the church in Pusztina (Pustiana). Three days later Gabor Dumitru, the Bishop's advisor replied that the ministering of the congregation of the diocese should be left to them; they also claimed that in the past no complaints had ever been voiced by the residents of Pusztina (Pustiana) and that only external provocateurs and agitators caused trouble in their work. ,,It has been established through local investigation and research that the language of liturgy in Moldavia is Romanian, except for a few isolated cases."2 Although the bishop in Jászvásár (Iasi) did not allow Hungarian language masses to be conducted, the priest in Csíksomlyó (Sumuleu-Cius) celebrated the mass in Hungarian anyway in a tavern made of planks and rearranged for the occasion. The diocese Moldavia found this incident to be scandalous and harshly complained to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia) that the parish priest belonging to the diocese in Transylvania had rudely insulted Roman Catholic ecclesiastical law with his Hungarian-language mass.
The Hungarian congregation of Klézse (Cleja) composed a new letter to the Bishop of Moldavia in 1997 requesting Hungarian mass. In their application they appealed to the paragraph 1. Article 6. of the Romanian Constitution which guarantees the right of minorities to preserve, develop and express their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity and traditions. As law-abiding citizens of Romania, they asked the bishop to allow one mass a week in Hungarian. The Bishop did not even bother to reply to the congregation.
At the Romanian Roman Catholic Episcopal conference in Kolozsvár (Cluj) in October 2000, Petru Gherghel claimed that the collection of signatures among Csángós was a fraud; in his opinion certain had simply deceived the trusting parishioners. ,,Such endeavors are ridiculous and are not based on reality. The Moldavian people never asked for the introduction of mass held in other languages."3 In addition, he called the mother tongue of the Csángós ,,argot," (i.e. the shameful language of thieves). He claimed that he had discussed this issue several times with Pope John Paul II, who left the decision concerning the language of the liturgy up to him. The Bishop thought it was unfortunate that associations such as the Alliance of CsángóHungarians in Moldavia which, in his opinion, did not represent the interests of the Catholic congregations meddled with the episcopacy's internal affairs.
Even though Jean-Claude Perisset, the Papal Legate in Szatmárnémeti (Satu Mare), had previously taken a strong stand against the initiative related to the native language religious life of Csángó-Hungarians, later, when he visited the Greek Catholic episcopacy of Kolozsvár (Cluj) in May 2001, he said that he had looked into the question when visiting Moldavia. The ambassador of the Holy See in Bucharest, however, was unwilling to comment on the Council of Europe's recommendations about the Csángó people, since in his opinion the view on the native language mass for the Csángós was primarily the task of the European organization.
During his visit to the Vatican on 9th October 2001, Ferenc Mádl, President of the Hungarian Republic, raised the issue of the request by Moldavian Csángó-Hungarians to be permitted to conduct their religious life in their mother tongue. During his meeting with Pope John Paul II, the Holy See indicated for the first time that it was ready to take actual steps to further the Hungarian religious life of the Csángós in Moldavia. Petru Gherghel, the Moldavian Roman Catholic Bishop, commented on the visit to the editor of the periodical, Krónika: ,,We will not be forced. We are the ones to be consulted concerning this issue. We will analyze the situation and decide what needs to be done."
In the autumn of 2001, over 300 citizens of Pusztina (Pustiana) professing to be Hungarians submitted a written requested for the incorporation of Hungarian language liturgy. The diocese reacted by dispatching a special delegation to the scene in order to assess the true needs of the people. The delegation concluded that the petitioners were drunkards, i.e. people whose signatures need not be taken seriously. In the end, the Csángós became tired of not receiving genuine answers to their requests, what's more, they are considered irresponsible and of loose moral character; therefore, on 12th April 2002, a group of forty citizens traveled to Jászvásár (Iasi) by bus. Upon their arrival, Aurel Perca, Assistant Bishop received only four of the delegates, and he called to doubt necessity of celebrating mass in Hungarian in the churches of Moldavia during the talks. He also said that the Moldavian Roman Catholic diocese would communicate its standpoint in writing only when Bishop Petru Gherghel has returned from his trip to Rome. He pointed out to those present that the Vatican would always first ask the Moldavian Roman Catholic diocese's opinion concerning any decisions made concerning the Csángós.
In Jászvásár (Iasi), the Roman Catholic Diocese and Theological Institute established a research institute (Departamentul Cercetarii Stiintifice al Episcopiei Romano-Catolice din Iasi) to provide scientific evidence to prove that the Moldavian Csángós were descendants of Transylvanian Romanians. One of the first results was the 1998 publication of the writing of Ion H.Ciubataru, director of the Folklore Institute of the Romanian Academy of Sciences operating in Jászvásár (Iasi), entitled Catolicii din Moldova, Universul culturii populare. Impressively illustrated and produced with exceptional printing technology, this album attempts to prove the claim of the Transylvanian Romanian origins of Catholics in Moldavia using a biased interpretation of ethnographic data. The second volume was published by Presa Bună Publishers in Jászvásár (Iasi) in 2002; this was a research into the important holidays and transitional rites of the Moldavian Catholics that used methods similar to those prevalent in the first volume.
The political confusion following the 1989 political transformation led to an increase of the power, social role and prestige of the Church, especially in Moldavia. The restoration of the Church also implied that the clergy actively intervened in the everyday life and private sphere of the people, and achieved its over-representation in national, political and military programs. After the political change, Romania cleverly arranged with the Vatican that instead of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), home of the thousand year-old Transylvanian Roman Catholic pontifical residence, Bucharest, the nation's capital city became the Episcopal center. Although nearly one-million Roman Catholic believers live in Transylvania and the Partium, while their number is less than 300,000 outside the Carpathians, in 1999 the Holy Father could only visit Bucharest, where believers of the Orthodox faith form the majority; the Orthodox Church, considering itself to be the national religion, used all means to make it impossible for the Pope to visit his congregations in Moldavia or Transylvania. On 9th May 1999, more than 500,000 Christians, residing in or originating from Moldavia took part in an ecumenical mass held on the square before the Bucharest palace, the oversized building constructed according to Ceauşescu's blueprints that had claimed so many innocent lives. Domestic and international media interpreted this event to be a symbol of reconciliation of the western Christian Church and the Orthodox Church. No wonder, therefore, that to date no substantial answer has been given to the petition requesting permission for the native language celebration of mass in Moldavia handed to the Holy Father in the presence of several hundred Moldavian Csángó believers during his visit to Hungary in 1991. Even after the collapse of communism in Eastern-Europe, the diplomats of the Holy See still attach greater significance to the existence of the few hundred-thousand Roman Catholic believers of Romanian language and identity than to arrest the slow linguistic, national and cultural assimilation of the Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia.
The last decade witnessed the massive migration of people from Moldavian Roman Catholic village communities to Hungary, Italy and Spain. The exodus of migrant workers and consistent demands of the European institutions toward Romania's minority policies have only brought about modest and sporadic changes in the region.
József Ababei Tampo, a divinity student born in Lujzikalagor (Luizi-Calagor), celebrated his first mass in Budapest on 15th June 2002, where eight priests from Moldavia also took part; the organizers assumed that the guests arriving from the Szeret (Siret) region would recite the liturgy in the Romanian language. In a month's time the newly ordained priest was able to say a few words in his native language for the first mass arranged in his hometown. To their great joy, the following day more than 150 believers with Hungarian identity in Lujzikalagor (Luizi-Calagor) were able to hear mass held in Hungarian, celebrated by József Ababei Tampo, while the sermon was preached by Imre Kozma, apostolic pronotary, president of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service.
In July of 2003, the inhabitants of Lujzikalagor (Luizi-Calagor) could hear mass held in Hungarian once more, thanks to the initiative of Ágoston Palkó who had completed his studies in Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia). The church was packed to capacity, primarily with the young seminarian's relatives, the regular pilgrims from the Pentecostal parish feast from Csíksomlyó (Sumuleu-Ciuc). The parish priest, József Salamon from Gyergyóhodos (Hodosa) delivered the sermon. A week later Róbert Pogár, who had completed theological studies in Kaposvár, Hungary, had his turn to celebrate mass in Hungarian in his hometown of Magyarfalu (Arini). Although no bell tolled to call the congregation to mass and no organ played inside the church, almost two hundred people listened with devotion and with tears in their eyes to the sermon in their native tongue and to the Hungarian religious songs leant by the village youth from Gergely Csoma and the elders of the community. Further celebrations brightened the day with a program given by dancers and musicians from Somoska (Somusca). The above mentioned Moldavian Hungarian church services were never accompanied by any trouble or scandal.
In November 2003, Béla Markó, president of the Romanian Hungarian Democratic Alliance, sent the Pope a letter in which he called attention to the fact that the Council of Europe Recommendation No 1521 (2001) specifically declares the right of the Moldavian Csángós to freely use their native tongue in their schools and religious life. In the same letter he also emphasized that the Romanian government had also recognized the right of Csángó Hungarians to use their native language by allowing Hungarian language instruction in a total of seven public schools as of September 2003. Through the mediation of Jacques Santer, the former president of the European Commission, on 12th November 2003 Pope John Paul II personally received Tibor Szatmári, the foreign affairs advisor of the RMDSZ. During the audience Mr. Szatmári delivered Béla Markó's letter to the Holy Father. Mr. Szatmári called the Pope's attention to the letter sent by the King St. Stephen Society in Pusztina (Pustiana); containing the 200 signatures specifically collected for this occasion along with earlier correspondence between the Moldavian Csángó Hungarian Alliance and the Roman Catholic Episcopate in Jászvásár (Iasi), which, to that date, had clearly rejected any dialogue pertaining to the parishioners of Hungarian identity living in Moldavia. Because at the time of papal meeting the Romanian-Hungarian politician was not able to meet with the Holy Apostolic See's foreign minister, Stephen Biller a member of the European Parliament's European People's Party group, a party compacting the European Christian-Conservative Parties, became the envoy who met with Cardinal Jean Luis Tavran, the Vatican's Minister of Foreign Affairs. Biller personally delivered a copy of Béla Markó's letter and a copy of the documentation of the struggles of Csángó Hungarians to have use of their native language in their religious life.
In November 2003, Tinka Nyisztor, president of the King St. Stephen Society, requested audience with Jean-Claude Perisset, representative of the Holy Apostolic See in Bucharest. At the meeting she once again stressed the demand of the Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia for religious life in their mother tongue. Attached to the appeal was a copy of the series of petitions submitted previously. Soon and quite surprisingly, the papal legate's offices gave a positive reply. On November 25th, a meeting with the Vatican's ambassador took place in the capital; in an atmosphere of sincerity the ambassador thanked the society for their ten-year struggle for the incorporation of native language mass in their churches. At the reception, Jean-Claude Perisset affirmed that any congregation consisting of more than fifty believers should not be deprived of their wish for liturgy in their native tongue. The papal legate promised the five-member Csángó-Hungarian delegation that his propositions would soon be sent in a letter to Petru Gherghel, the Roman Catholic Bishop in Jászvásár (Iasi), while a copy would also be sent to the Vatican.
THE MOLDAVIAN CSÁNGÓ ON THE STAGE OF EUROPEAN AND ROMANIAN POLITICS
Antal Csicsó, president of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia, received an invitation to Brussels in 1997 to address a conference of the Open Assembly of the Cultures of Europe together with leaders of European Gypsy minorities. In the heart of united Europe, it came as a surprise to all to learn that Moldavian Csángós were not allowed to use their native tongue in schools or in religious liturgy, despite the fact that Romania was the first to sign the Framework Convention for the Protection of Minorities in Strasbourg in 1995. At the time of the presentation, Nicola Girasoli, an Italian diplomat of the Vatican who launched a foundation for minority research in Brussels called Promoting Studies and Knowledge of Minority Rights, immediately turned his attention to the tempestuous fate and unfavorable conditions of the Moldavian Csángó community.
Upon the initiative of Father Girasoli, Valentin Stan, a Bucharest historian and Renate Weber, a human rights expert, member of the Romanian Helsinki Committee, prepared an English language study about the origin, history and present situation of the Moldavian Csángós. This superficial and biased pamphlet was presented in Budapest in 1998, in the presence of the President of the Hungarian Republic, the Papal Legate as well as several politicians and diplomats. At the event, Vilmos Tánczos, a Kolozsvár (Cluj) university professor, pointed out the inconsistencies and superficial elements in the publication written by Romanian authors.
In January 1999 the European Union's Committee of the Regions, supported by the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, invited the President and Vice-President of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia to a series of events about threatened minorities, where Lord Menuhin declared: ,,Small cultures must be protected, whether they are sovereign states or minority European cultures like the Moldavian Csángós, the Bulgarian Pomaks or the Gypsy ethnic groups whose homes are found in several European countries." At Brussels event, the values of traditional Csángó culture were presented through a folk art exhibition, publications, videos and lectures.
Ms. Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa, member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and former Finnish Minister of Education, made visits to the most significant Moldavian Csángó communities in July 1999. She documented her experiences and conclusions in a report consisting of eight sections. Ms. IsohookanaAsunmaa emphasized the importance of providing the Csángós with accurate and comprehensive information about their basic human rights and urged that their native language be instituted in schools and church liturgy. The report presented to the Cultural and Educations Committee of the Council of Europe by the Finnish rapporteur was vehemently rejected by the committee's Romanian member and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bucharest. They both claimed that the report was an integral part of the campaign aiming to ,,Hungarianize" the region inhabited by the Csángós.
On 15th February 2000, Zsolt Németh, political state secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accompanied by József Kötő, the RMDSZ-member state secretary of the Romanian Ministry of Education, made a tour of the Csángó settlements; and visited the community center in Klézse (Cleja) equipped by the Szeret-Klézse Foundation. During the visit the Hungarian politician stressed that the Hungarian State will keep close track of and provide support to the efforts of the Moldavian Csángó-Hungarian community to protect their interests and preserve their language, culture and identity.
On 19th August 2000 James Rosapepe, the ambassador of the United States to Bucharest visited the Csángó settlements. The authorities in Bákó (Bacau) County did everything in their power to prevent the representatives of the Alliance of CsángóHungarians in Moldavia from approaching the American diplomat. A ring of manipulated and aggressive men surrounded the Alliance's representatives and the police had to intervene to extract them from the mob.
In September 2000, Joao Ary, Portuguese Secretary of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Council of Europe visited Moldavia, accompanied by Joseph v. Komlóssy, Vice-President of the Federal Union of European Ethnic Nations (FUEN). During the course of their visit they met with the leaders of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia, agricultural laborers in Pusztina (Pustiana) and Klézse (Cleja) as well as the administrative, political, cultural and educational leaders of Bákó (Bacau) County. During the trip Mr. Ary was appalled by the fact that the local authorities had a total disregard for the laws already adopted and ratified by Romania, and frequently employ intimidation against parents and children alike for demanding the use of their native language in school instruction and church liturgy. The Portuguese expert prepared a report about his experiences during the visit, which he later submitted to the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Council of Europe.
The Dumitru Mărtinaş Association was founded in Bákó (Bacau) on 17th March 2001 in the presence of the leaders of local, county and national administrative political, cultural, educational and religious institutions. The founders aggressively urged all present to use every means to prevent and restrict the Csángó-Hungarians' rights of self-organization, and profession and institutional practice of their identity. In fact, the founders were attempting to convey a message to the European institutions to the effect that demands for native language instruction in schools and mother-tongue liturgy were unfounded in Moldavia, since the Csángós are Romanian in origin. Since its foundation, the Association has produced several propagandistic publications of questionable value and quality, all intended at providing proof of the Romanian origins of the Csángós.
On 26th April 2001 in Strasbourg, the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Council of Europe adopted Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa's draft report about the protection of the Csángó culture. The report adopted by the Committee also contained ten practical proposals for the protection of Csángó culture:
1. Parents living in Csángó settlements should be informed of the Romanian legislation on education and instructions should be issued on how to apply for its provisions concerning languages;
2. The possibility of mother-tongue education should be ensured in accordance with the Romanian Constitution and the legislation on education. In the meantime, classrooms should be made available in local schools and teachers working in the villages teaching Csángó language should be paid;
4. Csángó associations, such as the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia (ACHM), should be officially recognized and included in the list of the Council for National Minorities. Particular attention should be paid to the correct registration of the Csángó minority at the next official census;
5. Access to modern mass-media facilities should be promoted. Financial support should be given to Csángó associations to enable the issuing of a monthly publication and the functioning of a local radio station;
6. A local institute should be set up for the promotion of Csángó culture within the context of raising awareness of and respect for minorities;
7. An information campaign should be launched in Romania concerning the Csángó culture and the advantages of peaceful co-operation between the majority and the minorities;
8. An international committee of experts should be established to study the Csángós;
9. The unique linguistic and ethnographical features of the Csángós should be appropriately recorded;
10. The economic revival of the area should be encouraged, for example, through the establishment of small and medium enterprises in Csángó villages.
The report adopted by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Council of Europe made it possible to take the Csángó issue before the Standing Committee. The Romanian party leader present at the session, notorious for his intolerance and hostility towards minorities, claimed that Csángós didn't even exist; and, in a noisy and overbearing manner, he attempted to prevent the committee from adding the draft report to the agenda.
Romanian MP Gheorghe Prisăcaru soon submitted another report, in which he declared that in reality the Csángós themselves did not request native language instruction, and the so-called Csángó issue was simply a fabrication originating from Hungarian politicians in Transylvania and Budapest.
On 23rd May 2001in Istanbul, the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa Finnish rapporteur's report Doc. 9078 about the Csángós; and formulated Recommendation No. 1521 (2001) to the Romanian government, consisting of nine points:
1. The possibility to be educated in the mother tongue should be ensured in accordance with the Romanian Constitution and the legislation on education. In the meantime, classrooms should be made available in local schools and teachers working in the villages teaching the Csángó language should be paid;
2. Csángó parents should be informed of the Romanian legislation on education and instructions should be issued on how to apply for its provisions concerning languages;
3. There should be an option for Roman Catholic services in the Csángó language in the churches in Csángó villages and the possibility for the Csángós to sing hymns in their mother tongue;
4. All Csángó associations should be officially recognized and supported. Particular attention should be paid to the correct registration of the Csángó minority at the next official census;
5. Access to modern mass media facilities should be promoted. Financial support should be given to Csángó associations in accordance with the availability of funds, in order to help them to express their own identity actively (in particular through the issuing of a monthly publication and the functioning of a local radio station);
6. Specific programs should be set up for the promotion of Csángó culture in the context of raising awareness of and respect for minorities. International discussions and seminars of experts should be organized to study the Csángós;
7. An information campaign should be launched in Romania concerning the Csángó culture and the advantages of co-operation between the majority and minorities;
8. The unique linguistic and ethnographical features of the Csángós should be appropriately recorded;
9. The economic revival of the area should be encouraged, for example, through the establishment of small and medium-sized enterprises in Csángó villages.
Finally, the Romanian representative of the Standing Committee voted in favor of the above document, welcoming it as it stands to counter the statements of those who try to make the Csángós appear to be a unified group of Hungarian origin. The representative also pointed out that the document suggested native language rather than Hungarian language instruction. He announced that the Roman Catholic Episcopate operating in Jászvásár (Iasi) had already set up a research group to establish the written form (!!) of the Csángó language.
On 14th November 2001, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe issued a statement on the protection of the cultural traditions of Moldavian Csángós urging support for mother tongue instruction and ensuring church liturgy in the Csángó language. In addition, the document welcomed the efforts of the Holy See to provide native parish priests for the Csángó minority communities and to ensure church service in the native language. According to the document all parents living in the Csángó villages must be provided with all necessary information regarding their children's education. An appropriate number of native teachers receiving salaries from the state have to be provided, along with adequate classrooms. Thus, the executive body of the Strasbourg-based organization adopted the recommendations the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had made about the Csángós in June.
In December 2001, representatives of the Romanian Helsinki Human Rights Committee and the Pro Europa League visited Bákó (Bacau) County to investigate the grievances reported by the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia. Following the visit a report was drafted, categorically stating that the Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia were targets of premeditated and deliberate assimilation pressure not only from the part of the local administration and the Ministry of Domestic Affairs but also from several representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the press. The report clearly stated that the community's national minority status must be recognized, representation must be granted to the community in the Romanian Parliament and the members of the community must enjoy total freedom in selecting their identity during the 2002 census.
At the 10th-11th December 2001 Paris meeting of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Council of Europe, Romanian MP Gheorghe Prisăcaru, though diplomatically welcoming the recommendation of the Committee of Ministers adopted in November, categorically rejected the idea of the assimilation of the Moldavian Csángós into the Hungarian community and formulated Romania's opinion in a separate document.
The Pro Minoritate Foundation for Minorities and the Foundation for the Protection of National and Ethnic Minorities in Central-Europe organized an international conference in Budapest on 15th February 2002 about the situation of endangered European minorities. The program included an address by Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa, the Finnish representative of the Council of Europe, about the protection of the Moldavian Csángó culture. She described how the Council of Europe closely monitors endeavors to protect the interests of the Moldavian Csángós along with European Gypsies, Yiddish communities and Aromanian and Uralic peoples. She emphasized that the archaic culture of the Csángós is of universal value, therefore its protection and continuation is an important objective.
The 6th Csángó Festival in Budapest on 16th February 2002 included performances by traditional Moldavian groups. The closing address was delivered by the President of the Hungarian Republic, Ferenc Mádl, who, as a symbolic gesture, presented Hungarian Certificate to a young and a senior Csángó-Hungarian married couple from Pusztina (Pustiana) on the stage.
In March 2002, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted resolution ResCMN (2002)5 which, although acknowledging Romania's efforts in the field of the protection of minorities, states clearly and unambiguously that authorities in Bucharest must take further steps regarding the Csángó issue, since members of this community do not enjoy the same rights which are guaranteed to all minority citizens in Romania.
During the official population census in Romania on 18th March 2002, the survey form contained the word ,,Csángó", too, among the ethnonyms available to specify the respondents' national affiliation. Before the important event, Petru Gherghel, Moldavian Roman Catholic Bishop, by means of a cautiously composed and disguised circular, gave instructions to manipulate the believers in the freedom of choice regarding their identity. "Roman Catholic Christians must never forget that the language they speak is nobody's monopoly, but a gift bestowed upon them by the Lord as an instrument to be used in order to join with the community in the celebration of mass, unifying them with those around them, and making them useful members of society."4 In actual fact, the Bishop was encouraging believers to profess themselves as Romanians in the coming census. At a press conference, the National First President of RMDSZ protested that in Pusztina (Pustiana) census officials would not properly register the answers of those individuals who claimed to be Hungarian in nationality and mother tongue.
Thus, in 2002 the events of 1992 repeated themselves, when in Szabófalva (Săbăoani) the representatives of the Roman Catholic Bishop and the parish priest pressured the members of the community to claim themselves to be Romanian and Roman Catholics before the census-takers. A few days later those believers who said they were Hungarians were intimidated by threats that conditions similar to those of 1940 would be reinstated, and Moldavian Hungarians would be stripped of their rights and could be deported. In March 2002 in Pusztina (Puastiana) there were heated arguments between the census-takers and the citizens claiming themselves to be Hungarian in origin and mother tongue, as the former were unwilling to enter this on the survey forms even if specifically requested.
On 29th April 29 2002 the Romanian Academy organized a seminar entitled The Cultural Identity of the Moldavian Roman Catholic in the Bucharest building of the Romanian Parliament with the participation of high-ranking representatives of the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research (Ministerul Educatiei si Cercetarii), the Dumitru Martinas Association (Asociatia Romano-Catolicilor ,,Dumitru Martinas"), the Research Institute for the Study of Romanians in Covasna and Hargita County (Centrul European de Studii Covasna-Harghita) and the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jászvásár (Iasi) (Episcopia Romano-Catolica Iasi). The costs of the conference were financed by the Romanian government's Ministry of Public Information (Ministerul Informatiilor Publice). The conference organizers were clearly and deliberately trying to influence Strasbourg: Romanian ethnographers and historians present at the conference were trying to establish the Romanian origins of the Moldavian Csángós, and by doing so, intended to achieve a change in the policy adopted by the Council of Europe. At the same time, conclusions of survey conducted in Moldavia by the University of Arts and Sciences in Bucharest and the CURS Public Opinion Research Institute in Moldavia were made public, which suggested that the majority of Csángós consider themselves to be of Romanian nationality. Not a single researcher with an opposing opinion was invited to this private event. Only upon the insistence of RMDSZ MP's were representatives of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia allowed to enter the premises. Lajos Demény, a Bucharest historian and honorary fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was allowed to deliver an address of no more than a few words.
As a result of the Council of Europe's firm recommendations, on 4th-5th July 2002 the Romanian Academy and the House of Commons of the Romanian Parliament organized another ,,scientific" seminar at the Europa Hotel in Jászvásár (Iasi) about the origins, language and culture of the Moldavian Csángós. Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa, the rapporteur of the Council of Europe, and Joao Ary, Secretary to Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Council of Europe also took part in this conference costing more than one-billion lei. The event was moderated by Mihai Baciu, the Romanian delegate to the Council of Europe. Romanian president Ion Iliescu and Nicolae Vacaroiu, President of the Senate, greeted the participants in a letter. Valer Dorneanu, President of the House of Commons and Petru Gherghel, Roman Catholic Bishop in Jászvásár (Iasi) personally expressed their views on the subject matter of the conference.
The organizers invited over fifteen Romanian participants to speak, while only three Hungarian speakers were given the opportunity to deliver addresses (Vilmos Tánczos, professor at the University of Kolozsvár (Cluj), Lajos Demény, Bucharest historian and András Bartha, President of the Alliance of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldavia). During the heated and aggressive discussions, András Duma, Tinka Nyisztor, Ferenc Pozsony, Csaba Sógor and Sándor N. Szilágyi could also make brief addresses. Certain Romanian speakers tried to prove the myth that Moldavian Csángós were descendants of more or less Hungarianized Romanians in Transylvania, which originates from the dilettante work of Dumitru Martinaş, using historical, ethnographic, linguistic, sociological and physical anthropological methods, the later being reminiscent of fascist times.
Lacking any political responsibility, Gheorghe Bejan, President of the Dumitru Martinaş Association was able to bluntly and openly declare that in his opinion the Council of Europe had been duped by Hungarian propaganda when drafting and adopting its recommendations concerning the Csángós. After all, the Csángós are, and have always been Moldavian Roman Catholics, what's more, they are insulted when looked upon them as Csángós.
Because the organizers considered the Hungarian participants to be a source of conflict, the presence, opinions and influence of the Hungarian participants were deliberately confined within a symbolic setting from the outset. At the end of the seminar, which brought about no rapprochement between the conflicting views whatsoever, the organizers took the participants to two northern Csángó villages where, due to the assimilation tactics of the 20th century, the Romanian language and Romanian identity are prevalent. In Szabófalva (Săbăoani), anti-terrorist soldiers kept visitors from approaching the residents dressed in folk costumes. Afterwards the Western European and Hungarian participants were ushered into an overcrowded Roman Catholic assembly hall in Szabófalva (Săbăoani) to watch a cultural program reminiscent of the Ceauşescu era's megalomaniac celebrations. While the crowd and the posters on the wall proclaimed: ,,We are Romanians!", schoolchildren chanted fascist verses about something being wrong with the chromosomes of the Csángós. The organizers of this bloated event were trying to convey a message to the Council of Europe to the effect that the Csángós being, after all, Romanian, mother tongue language education and liturgy is guaranteed for them anyway, therefore the Council's recommendations are redundant.
The efforts aimed at the protection of rights cited above show that even at the turn of the 20th century, Romanian authorities have no intention of reaching a permanent settlement with the minorities. Instead of a ,,social contract" set down and codified in writing, which provides both parties with rights and responsibilities and which may be referred to at any time, they prefer unclear, temporary transactional agreements they can renegotiate or change at any time that are ideal instruments for blackmail.
Nevertheless, all initiatives to further the protection of the interests of the Csángós must recognize that over the centuries Csángó-Hungarians have become an integral part of the Romanian economic, social and cultural environment in Moldavia. ,,The goal – the preservation of the Moldavian Csángó community – cannot be realized with through external methods. Whatever changes are made can only be positive if the impulse comes from within, from the core."5
In the years following the Romanian changes in 1989, all domestic secular establishments were swept into crisis: in Moldavia, too, it was only the church that managed to preserve its social support. In my opinion, it is only the reassessment of the policies of the Roman Catholic Church towards the Csángós that could achieve a lasting breakthrough in the preservation of the Hungarian language in Moldavia.
The preservation of traditional Csángó culture based on the archaic Hungarian language, however, is not only the task of Transylvanian and Hungarian intellectuals. The archaic form of Hungarian spoken in Csángó communities and the traditional culture there represent a piece of cultural history that is valuable on a European scale as well.
When there is widespread social cooperation all over the world for the protection of any and all animal species threatened by extinction, when celebrated Paris actresses lobby for the fate of stray dogs of Bucharest, then it should certainly be the task of every European and Romanian intellectual to protect and preserve the traditional culture of the Csángós, founded on their native language.
1. Hajdú Demeter 1993. 157.
2. ,,În urma cercetărilor şi studiilor făcute s-a hotărât că limba lituurgică în Moldavia este limba română, afară de câteva cazuri izolate."
3. Krónika II. (2000). No. 253.
4. "Creştinii catolici nu trebuie să uite nicicând că limba pe care o vorbesc nu este un monopol al numănui, este un instrument dăruit de Dumnezeu, aşa încât ei o vor folosi pe aceea care le este proprie, care le dă satisfacţia participării la celebrările comunitare şi care îi uneşte cu cei din jur şi îi face utili societăţii." In: Lumina Creştinului XIII. (2002). 3 (147).
5. Kapaló 1994. 31. 23